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Education Caravan Headed for Sacramento

By Ann Williams
Special to The Lookout

April 27 -- A caravan of angry parents and students from Santa Monica is converging with allies from across the state on Sacramento Thursday to confront Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and demand he keeps his promises to California schools.

"We've been patient in the past, but this budget proposal is the last straw," said California State PTA President Carla Niño. "It breaks a promise that parents and their kids were counting on.

"We will not sit back and watch the continued under funding of our schools and the assault on Proposition 98," she said, referring to a measure approved by voters in 1988 that ensures that schools enjoy a large share of any increase in state revenues.

The "Caravan for Kids" bus will leave the Santa Monica Civic Center Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. It's first stop will be a rally at the Governor's Office at the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in downtown L.A., one of nine such local events in the state.

Santa Monica parents and education activists Denny Zane and Maria Rodriguez are on the speakers' roster at a rally that will take aim at state under funding of the schools.

After the rally, the bus will head to the State Capitol to meet up with fellow Santa Monicans who've traveled by car and plane.

All told, Caravan organizers expect more than 50 local parents, students and community leaders to join the throng of parents from Eureka to San Diego at a mass rally on the Capitol steps at noon Thursday.

"Caravan for Kids" literature highlights three demands the group will make of the Governor and the Legislature at Thursday's rally:

Honor their promise to restore $2 billion to California schools;

Uphold Proposition 98 - Constitutional funding guarantee for public schools approved by the voters; and

Rebuild California's commitment to education.

CEPS organizer Rochelle Lewis-Fanali called the last point "10 for 10" -- a commitment to increase California school funding so its schools will rank with the top ten states within ten years.

After the rally, PTA members will visit their legislators and ask them to sign a pledge to "make California schools great again."

Caravan for Kids is a coalition that matches the organizational talents and vision of the Santa Monica Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), a local group that successfully pushed for more municipal funding for the district, with more than one million volunteer members of the California State PTA.

CEPS organizer Rebecca Kennerly called the coalition "an unprecedented mobilization of parents and kids."

It is the centerpiece of the State PTA convention which starts Friday in Sacramento.

The Santa Monica "Caravan for Kids" buses start boarding at 10 a.m. in front of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium at 1855 Main Street. Event organizers say there's no need to R.S.V.P. to get a seat on the bus.

A bus will be returning to Santa Monica after the downtown rally for those who aren't going on to Sacramento.

For more information on Caravan for Kids, go to www.caravanforkids.org or to www.excellentpublicschools.org

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